The coldest bai
It’s the backlash. After the heat generated by Gujarat, has come the cold wave. However, it would be premature — and mere wishful thinking — to describe it as the Modeep-freeze.
All week, we’ve shivered vicariously at a range of images. From a kulfied Kufri where Punjabi wannabes pretend they’re into Alpine apres ski to Patna don’t-wannabe pavement-dwellers huddling over unpretentious bonfires.
In Mumbai, winter is the only thing more short-lived than a model’s love-affair, but this year you can actually blink, and expect it to be still there. The A Listerati has flaunted the stylish sweaters it normally saves up for its for expeditions and, for once, a ‘pash’ has refer to a shawl instead of to a wraparound boyfriend.
I needn’t have come to Delhi to air my woollies. In the time I was stuck at the airport, I could have taken a train; but the Rajdhani was mist-bound too. It’s only in winter that we can actually confirm what we’ve always suspected. That the capital’s powerati haven’t the foggiest idea of what they are doing. Make that ‘the smoggiest’, since their suspended political matters compound the problem.
I like Calcutta’s winters the best. They are bracing without being bitter; just cold enough to need warm clothes, but not heating. On the Maidan, vapour-breathing morning walkers replace the usual fire-breathing Marxists.
The babus pull on their monkey-caps and mother-knitted Fair Isle sweaters as soon as the post-Puja temperature drops by even one degree. The Brown Sahibs put on their three-piece suits throughout The Season, which lasts officially from November 15 to February 15, regardless of whether the mercury has actually begun to drop — or climb. But then Bengalis are too intellectual a breed to condescend to something as simple as logic.
Despite the periodic efforts of Jayalalitha and Veerappan to raise Karnataka’s temperature, Bangalore remains at a cool 22-degrees throughout the year. This might give it an advantage when the rest of the country reels under searing summer, but, like Mumbai, the I-tech capital is deprived of a change of seasons, a phenomenon which has such a civilising influence on a city’s denizens, courtesy the obligatory change of wardrobes, food and cultural rhythms.
I shudder to think of how cold it is in the fourth city I call home, Ahmedabad. Or maybe with the celebratory heat still on, I may not need to shudder. Physically that is.
The cold wave has been so top of mind that it has reduced the visibility of all the other news that’s been happening. I’ve come to the conclusion that, because we’ve been speaking through such chattering teeth all this week, we’ve ended up saying ‘cold’ when we’ve actually meant other sound-alikes.
The cell-phone crowd has been saying ‘cold’ when it has meant ‘hold’. This is because Mu-cash Ambani is all set to prove that where there’s a WLL, there’s a way to make even more cash. If Reliance Infocomm doesn’t become Unreliable Infocon, other operators could soon be well past their cell-by date.
The shaadi-shoppers have been saying ‘cold’ when they have actually meant ‘gold’. In this wedding season too, the yellow fellow has continued to prove its mettle vis a vis such upstarts as platinum or even diamonds pretending to be forever. The pulsating beat of Sona Sona throbbing through marriage mandaps has proved that the warm glow of gold gets to those parts that other DeBeers can’t reach.
The Cricketerati have been saying ‘cold’ when they’ve meant ‘sold’. They could be referring either to the World Cup’s ambush marketing of competing brands or to South Africa’s voodoo methods of ticket sales. Or, it could simply be a reference to the sell-out of Indian cricket.
Saying ‘cold’ instead of ‘sold’ is also the semantic stutter of other stars. The higher Bollywood rises on the global consciousness, the harder it seems to crash in home theatres. One could be on prickly ground in assessing the actual takings of ‘Kante’ since Pritish Nandy is such a public relations man that his name should be spelt PR-itish; and Saathiya has quite clearly taken 2002’s dismal box-office record into the New Year.
However, ‘sold’ could be hot or cold when it involves a film starring a Chief Minister’s son. On the one hand, ticket sales could soar if, on a gentle prod from the official residence of Varsha, zealous partymen, police inspectors and block development officers do block bookings for family, friends and favour-seekers. On the other hand, sales would plummet should political rivals resort to blocks of a less flattering kind. In which case, Vilasrao Deshmukh could become quite Ill-asrao, and not just from the common cold so symptomatic of this season.